Media code: Aus Treasurer says ‘great progress’ made with Google and Facebook ahead of parliament debate

Google and Facebook may be getting closer to landing an agreement of sorts with the Australian Government regarding the much-debated media code, according to Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

It’s been what feels like a heated back and forth, with Google in particular, as the Government looks to implement laws to have tech giants pay Australian media companies for news content. Google has threatened to take away its search engine from the country as a result. At least for now, it appears some headway is being made.

“I spoke to [Mark Zuckerberg] just yesterday, and I have been speaking as recently as this morning as well as over the weekend with Sundar [Pichai], the head of Google,” Frydenberg said on ABC radio.

“They are very focused on what’s happening here in Australia, but I sense they are also trying to reach deals, and that is welcome.”

The Treasurer said that “great progress” was made in discussions over the weekend.

“I think we’re very close to some very significant commercial deals – and in doing so, that will transform the domestic media landscape.”

The potential change to Australia’s media landscape with the code could certainly have ripple effects overseas. Frydenberg said “many eyes across the world” are trained on the situation.

“Both the media proprietors and the digital giants recognise we have something that is workable here in Australia, something we can take forward, something that can ensure a sustainable media landscape, and something that will see journalism continue and journalists rewarded for generating original content.”

The code inches forward

The potential windfall comes as the Senate committee officially recommended the bargaining code be passed without any changes.

“The Government expects all parties to continue to work constructively towards reaching commercial agreements in the spirit of collaboration and good faith encouraged by the Code,” read the media release by Frydenberg and Paul Fletcher, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts.

“The Code will be reviewed by Treasury one year after its operation to ensure it is delivering outcomes that are consistent with the Government’s policy intent.”

The code is to be debated in parliament this week. As the situation stands now, there is an expectation that the code will be passed without much trouble.

Google claps back at Microsoft

Meanwhile, Microsoft is circling. The company has said they are more than ready to comply with the Government’s media code and become the country’s primary search engine if Google opts to leave.

Google threw a jab back Microsoft’s way, calling their take on the proposed law “unsurprising.”

“Of course they’d be eager to impose an unworkable levy on a rival and increase their market share,” Kent Walker, SVP Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer at Google, said in a Google blog post last week.

“But we and others have pointed to significant concerns with the proposed Australian law, while proposing reasonable amendments to make it work. The issue isn’t whether companies pay to support quality content; the issue is how.”

Stay tuned.


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